Feb. 26, 2009

By Douglas Kroll

Welcome Back, Wilson: Tommy John Surgery is never easy to come back from, even with how common it seems these days. But Texas A&M’s Alex Wilson is yet another success story. Missing the 2008 season was not easy as he rehabbed. A freshman All-American at Winthrop, Wilson transferred to College Station after his sophomore year, and it’s already paying dividends for the Aggies after just one start. The Hurricane, WVa. native struck out 14 batters in 6.2 innings last Saturday against Wright State, allowing no runs and three hits while walking only one. Throwing in the high 90s now, Wilson is a key to an Aggies rotation that may be the best in the nation.

Performance Of The Week: The last no-hitter on opening day came two years ago when Oregon State threw a combined no-no at Hawaii-Hilo. We all know what the Beavers did that season, winning their second straight national title. Could a title be in the works for Kansas? Junior Shaeffer Hall tossed the fifth no-hitter in school history on opening day against Air Force at the Service Academy Classic. The six-foot lefthander walked three and struck out seven Falcons all in 102 pitches. Not bad at all. The Jayhawks are 2-3 with a midweek split against 29th ranked Arkansas. Hall took a no-decision on Wednesday evening, going five innings allowing five hits and two earned runs. And no, the Jayhawks have never won a baseball national championship.

Checking The Box Score: Feb. 20
Score by Innings                            R  H   E
BYU.................       065 002 001 - 14 20  4
Oklahoma State...... 045 110 24X - 17 17  0

Only 11 of the 37 combined hits were for extra bases, and surprisingly the Cowboys did not hit a home run.

Weekend Watch (NCWBA Rankings)

Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park
(No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 9 Rice, No. 14 UC Irvine, No. 20 Baylor, No. 26 UCLA, Houston)

What has easily become the best tournament of the college baseball season, will certainly live up to all the hype again in 2009. Played at the Houston Astros’ gorgeous Minute Maid Park, five of the six teams in this year’s field are in the Top 30 and Houston, the one team that is not, won the C-USA tournament championship in 2008. Nine games in three days will see plenty of exciting matchups, but the one that Texas A&M fans have circled is Saturday’s showdown with Rice. In each of the last two years, the Aggies’ season has come to an end in the city of Houston in the Super Regionals, not managing to win a game either year at Reckling Park. The Aggies let it be known during the preseason that they would love another crack at the Owls, even though this meeting will take place in February. Other matchups to look out for, include the first game of the weekend which will be Texas A&M against UC Irvine. The Anteaters, a late addition to the tournament, started the season on a good note with a successful trip to Hawaii and will face the Aggies for the first time in school history. Irvine will also take on UCLA on Sunday, a preview of the two midweek games the teams will play back in California later in the year. One team to keep an eye on may be Baylor, as the Bears struggled to win two-of-three against Pacific at home last weekend. Facing Houston, UCLA and Rice, they could certainly make some noise this weekend, and it would be the perfect launching pad for a good run in non-conference play leading into a treacherous Big 12 schedule.

No. 10 Miami (Fla.) at No. 13 Florida
The rivalry between Miami and Florida might be at its fiercest on the baseball diamond, with the two teams meeting every season. This year’s three-game set features two teams coming off solid opening weekends, thanks to the Gators securing a sweep over then-No. 11 Louisville and the Hurricanes taking three-of-four against Rutgers. Despite Florida’s struggles in recent years, it has been dominant in the recent series, taking eight of the last 11 from the ‘Canes. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan will have to prepare to face a much different edition of a Miami team than he faced a year ago, when he lost two of three in Coral Gables. One name will be familiar, though. Hurricane ace Chris Hernandez picked up a no decision in ’08 against the Gators, after going six innings and giving up only one earned run and two hits while striking out seven. The All-American got off to a good start in ’09, picking up a victory against Rutgers on opening night going six innings giving up only one run. The baby ‘Canes will have to deal with senior Patrick Keating on Friday night, a week after picking up a win against the Cardinals when he struck out seven in seven innings of work. This weekend could be considered the toughest non-conference action either team will face all season, and a series victory could go a long way when we look back in June.

Series History: Miami leads 120-93-1

No. 11 Stanford at No. 16 Cal State Fullerton
If there’s one opponent that Cal State Fullerton probably has a bull’s-eye on in 2009 it is probably the Stanford Cardinal. The Titans lost 22 games last season, and five of them came at the hands of the Cardinal, including a Super Regional sweep in Fullerton to end their season. Revenge will certainly be on their minds, especially after losing two-of-three to TCU at home to begin 2009. A rebound win over San Diego State helped things, and for head coach Dave Serrano’s, he hopes it propels them to a couple of wins this weekend as well. A 6.50 team ERA is something the Titans will look to improve upon after the first four games of the season, but starter Daniel Renken pitched a solid 5.2 innings against TCU last Friday. Freshman DH Nick Ramirez started his collegiate career in impressive fashion, with a hefty .533 batting average and 8 RBI. The Cardinal opened the season with a series victory against Vanderbilt, but fell to Saint Mary’s on Wednesday. Friday night starter Jeffrey Inman will hope to improve upon giving up five runs in his seven innings against the Commodores.

Series History:  Stanford leads 54-38

No. 27 TCU at No. 24 Mississippi
One has to give credit to TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle for scheduling trips to Fullerton and Ole Miss to open the year. The Mountain West favorites certainly held their own on the West Coast last weekend, taking two-of-three from the Titans, and are a healthy 4-1 heading into a weekend showdown with the Rebels. There isn’t too much history between the two squads, but the Horned Frogs did take the series last year in Fort Worth. Ole Miss will have to deal with a potent TCU offense that has averaged nearly eight runs a game thus far, and has hit to the tune of a lofty .336 team batting average. Senior Chris Ellington leads the way with a .458 average, while Matt Curry and Steve Coats have each launched two home runs in the early going. The Rebs hope to continue the good home cooking, after two mid-week wins over Central Arkansas in Oxford. Opening weekend for Mike Bianco’s charges wasn’t as pretty, dropping a pair of games to Mercer and South Alabama at the Coca Cola Classic in Mobile. Senior Logan Power is off to a good start, hitting .375 with two home runs. If the Rebels have a lead late, look for star closer Scott Bittle to close things out, even though he took a loss last weekend.

Series History: TCU leads 4-3